Ah, keywords. Long tail keywords, short tail keywords, head terms, seed keywords, primary keywords, and core keywords form the cornerstone of SEO strategy, each offering unique opportunities for optimization and targeting in search engine landscapes. Keywords are the handy little terms that allow us all to get found on Google. They’re the darling of SEOs everywhere, and the bane of anyone who doesn’t quite understand them (or how to use them) properly. While keyword research and optimising your writing can be tedious (believe me, I know), keywords are the guiding stars illuminating your content so the search engine gods understand what it’s about, recognise that you’re speaking about it authoritatively, and show it to people searching for information on that topic over and above your competitors.
The bugger is getting it right. And trust me, I know a lot of seasoned marketers, copywriters, and even SEOs who get it wrong. It’s easily done. Particularly when you consider how rapidly the search engine algorithms adapt and change to better serve those searching on them.
Keywords do not work like they used to. Time was, you chose one keyword you wanted to rank for, stuffed it into your copy as frequently as possible, and however managed to use it most got the top spot.
Those days are long, long gone, and understanding the various types of keywords, their uses, and what you should (and shouldn’t!) do with them, is the difference between crafting online content that ranks and gets you seen, and wasting a ton of time and resources on content the Google gods ignore entirely.
Nobody likes to be shunned, least of all by god.
So, today I’m looking at one specific type of keyword: the short tail keyword. By the end of this you’ll know exactly what short tail keywords are, how to use them, and why you shouldn’t overuse them. But before we get to that, let’s talk about polar bears.
Polar Bears Hate Company
You may have noticed from the wolf in the name that I’m fond of animals, nature, and the odd analogy that borrows from my favourite furry friends. Polar bears are awesome. Majestic, powerful, and they have very short tails, all things considered.
Imagine, if you will, a lone polar bear in the vast expanse of the Arctic. Just like these magnificent creatures, short tail keywords are known for their succinctness and strength. Polar bears do not thrive in packs but excel in solitude. And this is how I would like you to think of short tail keywords: lone rangers in your effort to rank on SERPs.
Short tail keywords reign as the kings of brevity, packing a powerful punch in just a few words. Just as the polar bear roams the icy realms of the earth as solitary apex predators, short tail keywords dominate the search landscape with their broad, often competitive nature.
And, just as a polar bear commands attention in its icy realm, effectively utilising short tail keywords can propel a website to the top of search engine rankings. This blog post dives into the world of short tail keywords, unravelling the mysteries behind their power and how to harness them wisely in the SEO ecosystem.
Understanding Keywords: Short and Long Tail
As we delve deeper into the realm of SEO, it’s crucial to understand the different types of keywords that form the backbone of search engine strategies. In this landscape, short and long tail keywords stand as two distinct species, each with its unique traits and roles in the digital ecosystem.
Short Tail Keywords
These are typically concise, often consisting of one to three words. Short tail keywords are broad in nature and can encompass a wide range of topics. Due to their general nature, they often have a high search volume, which means more people are searching for these terms. However, this also means they are highly competitive. Examples of short tail keywords might include ‘shoes’, ‘coffee makers’, or ‘smartphones’.
Long Tail Keywords
In contrast, long tail keywords are longer, more specific phrases, usually over three words. They are much more targeted and specific to a niche or particular audience. For instance, ‘women’s waterproof hiking shoes’ or ‘French press coffee makers for camping’. Due to their specificity, long tail keywords tend to have a lower search volume but are less competitive and often have a higher conversion rate, as they are more likely to attract an audience closer to a purchasing decision.
Difference Between Long Tail and Short Tail Keywords
The key distinction lies in their length, specificity, search volume, and competition level. While short tail keywords are broad and attract a large, diverse audience, long tail keywords are specific and draw in a more targeted audience. The broad nature of short tail keywords makes them highly sought after in SEO, but their high competition can make ranking for them a significant challenge. Long tail keywords, with their lower competition, allow for easier ranking and attracting an audience with specific interests or intent.
Understanding the difference between these two types of keywords is crucial for crafting an effective SEO strategy. While short tail keywords can provide a wide reach, long tail keywords offer the opportunity to connect with a more targeted audience, potentially leading to better conversion rates. A balanced approach, using both short and long tail keywords, is often the most effective way to optimise your content and achieve a well-rounded online presence.
The Role Of Short Tail Keywords In SEO
The battleground of visibility and ranking in SEO is often defined by the strategic use of keywords. Understanding the ‘difference between long tail and short tail keywords in SEO’ is crucial for navigating this terrain effectively.
When it comes to ‘short tail keywords and long tail keywords’, one of the most significant differences lies in the level of competition. Short tail keywords are highly competitive due to their broad nature. Everyone wants a piece of the pie that these high-volume keywords offer, from big corporations to small blogs. This intense competition makes it challenging to rank well in search results for short tail keywords.
In contrast, long tail keywords face less competition. They are more specific and cater to niche segments, which means fewer websites are vying for these terms. This lower competition level offers a greater chance for smaller or more specialised sites to rank higher in search results.
The effectiveness of these keywords varies based on the goals of the SEO campaign. Short tail keywords, though difficult to rank for due to their high competition, can drive significant traffic to your site if you do manage to secure a top position. This traffic, however, might not always be the most targeted, as short tail keywords are often more general.
Long tail keywords, on the other hand, are more effective in attracting a targeted audience. These keywords are specific, and the users searching for them are usually further along in the buying cycle or looking for specific information. Consequently, while the traffic from long tail keywords may be lower in volume, it often has a higher conversion rate compared to short tail keywords.
A successful SEO strategy often involves balancing both ‘short tail keywords and long tail keywords’. Short tail keywords help in gaining broad visibility, while long tail keywords are crucial for attracting a targeted audience and achieving higher conversion rates. The key is to understand the ‘difference between long tail and short tail keywords in SEO’ and to use this knowledge to create a comprehensive keyword strategy that caters to both immediate visibility and specific audience needs.
So, both short tail and long tail keywords have their place in the SEO landscape. The challenge and art of SEO lie in understanding these differences and leveraging them to create a strategy that brings both visibility and targeted traffic to your website.
Case Studies: Successful Use of Short Tail Keywords
Understanding the practical application of short tail keywords is key to grasping their true value in SEO. Let’s explore real-life examples that highlight how I’ve effectively used short tail keywords when writing blog posts in successful SEO strategies.
Example 1: “Tribe Building”
One compelling example of short tail keywords is found in a blog post I wrote for my copywriting business, How To Build A Tribe, Why You Need To, And Why We Need To Drop The Term. Optimised for the short tail keyword ‘tribe building’ and long tail keyword ‘how to build a tribe’, along with various LSI terms (related keywords and phrases) this post demonstrates how targeted use of short tail keywords can significantly impact search engine rankings. As a result of this strategic optimisation, the post currently ranks (at the time I wrote this) for a variety of related terms, such as:
- “Tribe building” ranks at position 10.
- “Building a tribe” ranks at position 9.
- “Build a tribe” ranks at position 9.
- “Make tribe” ranks at position 21.
- Other related terms it ranks for include “clan vs tribe”, “create your tribe”, and “tribe marketing”.
Despite the broad nature of these short tail keywords, the post effectively captures traffic related to tribe and community building, showcasing the power of well-implemented SEO strategies. Worth noting on this one, is that I don’t actually use the term ‘tribe building’ anymore due to several issues, largely the racist undertones and cultural appropriation involved. Unfortunately, the traffic relating to the subject isn’t quite woke on that particular point yet, which meant if I wanted to attract that traffic (and I did!) I needed to use the term. You’ll notice I have optimised the post for tribe building and related keywords (to attract the traffic) which explains why we need to stop using that very term.
In other words, if you want the traffic, find a way around it! Using the specific terms you personally prefer may sit better with you, but if you do your keyword research and find that your version has little or no traffic, while another version gets a ton of traffic, you go for the one with the traffic!
Example 2: “Signature Moments”
Another excellent short tail keywords example is another blog on TWCG, this one entitled The Power Of Signature Moments And How To Easily Deliver Them. Optimised for ‘signature moments’, the post successfully ranks (at the time I’m writing this) for related terms like:
- “Signature moment” at position 1 with a search volume of 30.
- “Signature moments” at position 4 with a search volume of 30.
- Other related keywords like “service moments” and “ibm signature moment” show promising rankings as well.
This case study illustrates how a moderately competitive short tail keyword, when utilised correctly, can effectively target a specific audience. Despite its lower search volume, ‘signature moment’ has been optimised to achieve high search rankings, demonstrating the importance of aligning SEO strategies with the specificities of each keyword for optimal results.
In other words, you don’t need to always go for the keywords with a huge search volume. If the keyword you’re optimising for is incredibly specific (even though it’s a short tail keyword) that is a highly effective combination. You’re gaining a smaller number of visitors each month, but those visitors are specifically interested in exactly what you’re talking about.
Example 3: “Podologist”
Taking a look at one of my client’s sites, this blog post titled What Is The Difference Between A Podiatrist And A Podologist? has proven to be a triumph of short tail keyword optimisation. The post currently (at the time of writing) ranks for the following:
- “Podologist” ranks at position 4, with a substantial search volume of 2.9K, demonstrating the site’s strong SEO performance in targeting this specific term.
- “Podology” also shows promising results, ranking at position 8 with a search volume of 990. This indicates the clinic’s effective optimisation for related, niche-specific terms.
The blog also ranks highly for the comparative term “podologist vs podiatrist,” coming in at position 4, with a search volume of 170, highlighting its relevance and authority in addressing specific user queries within the niche.
This case study underscores the impact of well-chosen short tail keywords in a specialised field. By focusing on terms like “podologist” and “podology,” Northwich Foot Clinic has successfully navigated the competitive landscape of SEO, achieving high rankings and attracting relevant traffic to its website. Their SEO strategy has been to consistently post a weekly, short-form blog every week for the last few years. While this took a while to gain traction, the results four years down the line speak for themselves; the site attracts thousands of visitors every month, all of them looking for the specific services they offer. Not only a large volume of traffic, but traffic that is highly relevant to them..
Example 4: “Blog Intro”
The blog post Hooked: How To Easily Write A Blog Intro To Keep Them Reading, is another great example. This is currently generating more search traffic for Rebel Wolf than anything else on the site, and presents a newer example of successful short tail keyword usage. Despite the recent launch of the website, the post is already ranking for:
- “Blog intro” at position 35.
- “Intro for a blog” at position 33.
- “Blog intro to hook readers” at position 23.
Not ranking in the top 5 (yet!) but this example demonstrates the potential for newer websites to gain traction in search rankings through effective keyword optimisation, even with a well-established term like ‘blog intro’. This blog was only published on the 14th November 2023, on a site that has been live less than 6 months.
So, even if you’ve got a brand new website, and very young content, you can achieve results in a short space of time when you’re clever about your keywords. I’ll update this in November 2024 and we’ll see where the blogs are ranking by then, but they should (if I’ve not been totally sidetracked and stopped working on the sites!) be ranking considerably higher and for more keywords by then.
SEO is cumulative. SEO never dies. The longer your blog is live, the more traffic it will attracted – assuming, of course, you’ve avoided common SEO mistakes, it’s well optimised, and you update it periodically.
These case studies underscore the importance of choosing the right short tail keywords and integrating them effectively into your content. While the age and authority of a website play a crucial role, the strategic use of short tail keywords can lead to significant improvements in search visibility, regardless of the site’s history.
Balancing The Keyword Spectrum
Moving beyond understanding individual keyword types, let’s focus on the strategic interplay between them. Harmonising short tail and long tail keywords within your content is an art, and a tactic crucial for a comprehensive and effective SEO strategy. There are several things involved in the strategic integration of keywords into your copy:
Craft your content calendar with a mix of topics that can naturally incorporate both short tail and long tail keywords. For broader appeal, use short tail keywords in general topic discussions. Reserve long tail keywords for in-depth articles that address specific queries or niche subjects.
Leverage the synergy between short and long tail keywords. Use short tail keywords to establish a strong foundation and brand identity. Supplement this with long tail keywords to capture highly targeted traffic and address specific user intents.
Layered Keyword Use
Think of your website’s content as a layered approach. The top layer, composed of more general, short tail keywords, casts a wide net to capture a broad audience. Beneath this layer, employ long tail keywords to target specific interests and needs, offering detailed, niche content that appeals to a more defined audience.
Content Diversity & Depth
Develop a diverse range of content – from blog posts and articles to FAQs and how-to guides. This variety allows for the natural inclusion of both types of keywords, enhancing the depth and breadth of your SEO reach.
Analytics and Adaptation
Regularly review your analytics to understand which keywords are performing best. Be prepared to adapt your strategy, shifting focus between short and long tail keywords based on performance, trends, and changing user behaviours.
Continuous SEO Evolution
Recognize that SEO is an evolving practice. Stay informed about the latest trends and algorithm updates. As search engines evolve, so should your keyword strategy. This might mean adjusting the balance between short and long tail keywords to align with new search patterns or emerging topics in your industry.
Seasonal and Trending Topics
Capitalise on seasonal trends or current events by integrating relevant short tail keywords for timely content. Simultaneously, use long tail keywords to provide in-depth, evergreen content that remains relevant and draws traffic consistently over time.
User Intent and Journey
Map your keywords to different stages of the user journey. Use short tail keywords to attract users at the awareness stage and long tail keywords for users who are closer to making a decision or purchase.
By mastering the balance between ‘short tail and long tail keywords’, you can create a dynamic and versatile SEO strategy. This balance ensures that while you attract a broad audience with general terms, you also cater to specific needs and niches, ultimately leading to a more engaged and convertible audience. The key is to maintain flexibility and adaptability in your approach, continuously refining your strategy based on performance data and changing user behaviours.
Why You Shouldn’t Overdo Short Tail Keyword Usage
But, we were talking about polar bears, weren’t we? There’s a reason I used that comparison, other than the relative shortness of a polar bear’s tail. Short tail keywords are often broad and highly competitive, much like polar bears who dominate the vast, open Arctic. They cover a wide range of topics and attract a large audience. However, just as too many polar bears in one area would lead to fierce competition for resources, too many websites targeting the same short tail keywords create a highly competitive environment, making it difficult to rank well.
The rise of voice search and more conversational search queries are also shifting the SEO landscape. Short tail keywords are losing their dominance as voice searches tend to be longer and more specific. And just as polar bears are being forced to adapt to the changing climate in the Arctic, SEO strategies must evolve to accommodate new, more complex search patterns driven by voice search.
You also need to bear in mind user intent and conversion rates when using short tail keywords, which often reflect broader search intent. Users searching for these terms may be at the early stages of their search journey, like explorers first setting foot in the Arctic. While these keywords can generate awareness, they may not lead directly to high conversion rates, as users might still be in the process of researching and considering their options.
If you’re travelling to the Arctic, your initial search terms will be things like ‘arctic travel’, and ‘arctic weather’ perhaps even ‘arctic wildlife’. Once you’re already familiar with the basics, have made the trip, and are standing in the arctic, you might start thinking about more specific questions like ‘how to navigate when everything looks exactly the same’ or ‘how to survive a polar bear attack’.
For the most part, short tail keywords will attract people who are starting to explore whatever it is you have to offer, but aren’t yet at the point they’ve educated themselves on the subject, know what they need, what’s on offer, and have made a decision.
Northwich Foot Clinic is a great example of this; they rank highly for ‘podologist’ but some of that traffic will be people who are wondering what the word means, while others will be staring at an infected ingrown toenail and desperate to book an appointment right then and there.
As the SEO environment evolves, there’s a growing importance of long tail keywords. These keywords, being more specific and detailed, align better with user intent. They have lower competition and often result in higher conversion rates, making them invaluable for a targeted SEO strategy.
Just like an ecosystem thrives on balance, your SEO strategy should balance short tail and long tail keywords. Overpopulating your content marketing with short tail keywords is like rounding up all the polar bears in the Arctic and penning them into a small park, with limited food supply.
Very soon, you will have far fewer polar bears.
A balanced approach, using both short tail and long tail keywords, ensures a comprehensive strategy that caters to both broad visibility and targeted audience needs. While short tail keywords are valuable for broad visibility and brand exposure, overusing them can lead to challenges in a highly competitive SEO landscape. Integrating a mix of short tail and long tail keywords in your content, much like maintaining ecological balance, is essential for an effective and sustainable SEO strategy.